The quality of the food, the easy-going, old-fashioned pub atmosphere, and of course, the beer, all help to make the Royston one of the best pubs around. The first venue in Melbourne to forgo commercial beers and stick entirely to craft has not only maintained a tight and superbly balanced list for all these years, but also spawned a movement now an integral part of our city’s drinking culture.
The prow of the bar juts out into the room, slicing through the frothy seas of pub mediocrity with a well curated and ever changing roster of crafty creations. Red lampshades play off the 1980s stonework feature wall, the vintage rumpus room feeling mirrored in the little side room where the pool table lives, lit by more lamps reflecting off deep orange walls. A classic blues playlist lilts across a Sunday afternoon as young mates, footy fans, couples, families and a few old blokes up at the bar all enjoy a pint or two, lending a happy neighborhood atmosphere to this little brick box.
The crew here are super-informed on every beer and are also careful to pre-empt disappointment by explaining the weird ones before you dive in. This week, the list is heavy on IPAs, and there are often at least two on offer here, so it's a good pub to drink in if you're a fan of big hops and plenty of booze. If not, a Deep Creek mango and chilli gose is juicy and refreshing but with a kick of woody chilli on the finish, while Exit coffee amber tastes like someone's tipped half a cup of cold brew into your beer for a bitter and earthy pot with a lovely silky texture that lasts the whole glass. Pass the doughnuts. There's also Stone & Wood Pacific Ale and Mt Goat Pale if you're feeling less adventurous, the latter available for $8 a pint during happy hour every day from 4-6pm.
Food is also a massive win here. The fare is simple pub classics, but they’ve nailed every one. Disco potato gems come piled like nachos with black beans, chipotle mayo, zingy tomatillo salsa and heaps of melted cheese. It’s our favourite pub snack of the year by far. Porterhouse is evenly charred yet perfectly medium rare (as ordered) and super flavourful, served with bright, fresh coleslaw that’s all vinegar and crunch. The parma, too, is a thing of real beauty.
The Royston’s original manager, Ed Harley, steered this old ship for five years before moving on to manage the Terminus in Clifton Hill and Foresters Hall, making his influence on the craft beer scene hard to overstate. Last year, Ed purchased the pub that started it all, and is back behind the bar running it again, giving Melbourne’s original craft beer pub an injection of passion and pride. We’re looking forward to the next ten years of good beer and good times in the leafy backstreets of Richmond.